Routine Maintenance

March 1, 2017

Raymond Martinez


West Escondido Automotive & Transmission

WEST ESCONDIDO AUTOMOTIVE & TRANSMISSION Location: Escondido, Calif. Size: 10,000 square feet Staff Size: 14 Number of Lifts: 18 Average monthly car count: 410 Annual revenue: $3.6 million

It is seemingly the simplest of advice, but when you consider his decades of experience repairing vehicles, his 120 percent efficiency, and his rigid structure day in and day out, the advice tells you everything you need to know about Raymond Martinez’s success.

“Always look at the big picture,” he says. “Think about what order you’ll do everything and what the best use of your time will be.”

That mantra is rooted in years of mentorship from others—from his brothers to his instructors at the Arizona Automotive Institute to his first gig as an entry-level technician in the late 1980s. Martinez has come a long way since performing maintenance for his parents’ fleet of trucks (they own a tortilla factory in San Diego) as a teenager.

And at West Escondido Automotive & Transmission (a past Ratchet+Wrench feature) in Escondido, Calif., owner Brian Bowersock says Martinez—the shop’s most senior tech—sets an example for everyone with his calculated, organized daily schedule. Here, Martinez details how he’s able to consistently keep his efficiency above 120 percent.

By the time I walk into work, i have already planned the first thing I'll do. Most of the time I have something set up from the day before. Either I came to a solid point in the middle of a job, or I’ve pulled a new job into one of my stalls. I try to set everything up for the next day, even if it’s just putting a car on the rack. That way when you come to work and the service writers are busy in the office with customers, there’s always something I can tinker with in the morning before the service advisors approach us.

About a half hour into the day, the service advisor will hand out a bunch of work. I’ll be either diagnosing or doing inspections, and that’ll be most of my morning. There are seven technicians on staff, and most of the diagnosing and suspension work will go to me. 

I don’t really specialize in anything—I’m into the whole vehicle, not just a certain part of the vehicle. I will usually take on the more complicated jobs. Depending on the difficulty of the jobs, I’ll have anywhere from three to 10 jobs to inspect before noon and then complete by the end of the day or the next morning. 

I’ll ask myself: What’s the order I want to do everything in? I look at my mix and determine which jobs might leak into the next day. But my ultimate goal is to get as much done as possible, so I leave my bigger jobs for last. If I can make four people happy as opposed to doing the one big job, then that will be my game plan.

When I inspect a vehicle, even though I might know what the problem is from practice and experience, I still research the problem. I look up common repairs and check TSBs on Mitchell 1, Identifix or ALLDATA. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used YouTube for a procedure on taking something apart. That way I can ensure, 100 percent, that I’ve diagnosed the problem.

“Your best tool is your head. at all times, you need to put it to best use.”

—Raymond Martinez, Technician, West Escondido Automotive And Transmission 

After the inspection, I have to write up a repair order. We have to write a story in the work order. I have to be able to confirm the issue, how I came to that conclusion, and what my official diagnosis is. 

I want to be out in front of everything with that story—details, details, details. Just like an author trying to put a picture in your head, I need to make it as easy as possible for the service writer to explain to the customer what the problems are: The sensor is going out and causing these codes to appear. 

My son once told me he was taught in his speech class: Write something good, then write the bad parts, then end it with a good thing. This way, I’m telling a story the service advisor can easily relay to the customer. So, the good thing is we confirmed the problem; the bad thing is it’s going to require this much labor and you’re going to have to spend this much money; the best part is we can repair it, and you’ll be safer because of it. 

I’ll spend 5–15 minutes writing that on my laptop in the notes section of that work order. It could be a short paragraph, just two or three sentences; or for bigger jobs, it could be three or four paragraphs.

Once I write all those up, I submit them to the office. Most of the time I will get most inspections done between 10 a.m. and noon, and that will put me right into lunch.

In the afternoon, by the time we come back from lunch, the service advisors have made a lot of their calls and sold the work, so we’ll start doing all the repairs. That’s when I try to take a wide look at everything and figure out how my day will go.

We’re often sharing at least one stall, so we have an average of about 2.5 stalls to ourselves. I’ll have two repairs set up at once, but try to just focus on one at a time. No matter what some people tell you, humans just are not as good when they’re multi-tasking. My memory is only so good, and if I start trying to balance, I’m less efficient. If I run into trouble, where there’s a broken part or something is unavailable, then I can stop on one car and move on to the other one. But I don’t take on more than that.

Throughout the day, as I’m working, I’m trying my best to stay organized and keep my area clean. Preparation is everything for me. It helps me stay focused on my work if everything is in order at all times. As I’m removing parts off a vehicle, I like to stop, look around, and make sure the area is OK, because otherwise parts are going to be lost in the clutter. Whether it’s re-organizing your toolbox, or restocking the coolant, or cleaning up a spot of oil, everything just becomes less stressful and your focus becomes so much better. Your best tool is your head. At all times, you need to put it to best use.

At the end of the day, I usually need to pick up a child from baseball or football practice, so that means I need to be done with my work by 5 p.m. I find a spot on a job that I can easily remember the next day and try not to end in the middle of something. 

I give myself a little time to clean up, just so I’m clean and organized and ready to go when I walk in the next day.

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